A  new Local Authority tenant-purchase scheme to come into effect next January will not be available to those who have not paid their water charges, John Lowe The Money Doctor reports.

The scheme allows council tenants to buy their houses at discounts of up to 60 per cent of their market value – twice the discount available under the last tenant-purchase scheme, which was discontinued almost three years ago. However, the conditions of the scheme rule out tenants who have “failed to pay all outstanding water charges due and owing to Irish Water”. Almost 130,000 people are current local-authority tenants. It is not known how many of them have not paid water charges.

However, just over half of all Irish Water customers have so far paid their bills, and opposition to the charge has been strongest in the areas with large proportions of local authority housing. Tenants of council houses have been able to buy their homes from individual local authorities since the 1930s. A national scheme for the sale of council houses, in place since 1973, gave buyers a percentage discount for each year of their tenancy. The most recent scheme, which had been in force since 1995, offered tenants a 3 per cent discount of the value of the house for each year they had been tenants up to a maximum of 10 years. It came to an end in December 2012.

Under the previous scheme, tenants would not qualify to buy if they had built up arrears in rent owed to the council. Those who purchase would face a “clawback” of some or all of the discount received if they sold on their house before the end of the repayment term. These provisions will be maintained under the new scheme, with the addition of the Irish Water clause. The new scheme offers discounts based not on the longevity of the tenancy but on the income of the tenant. Those earning more than €30,000 get 40 per cent off the price, those with an income of €20,000-€30,000 pay 50 per cent of the market value, and those with an income of €15,000-€20,000 get a discount of 60 per cent.

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